Shots fired as Austin Healey claims "England can put Irish to the sword in Dublin"
Austin Healey, of all people, has dealt the first blow in the build-up to the crunch Six Nations clash between Ireland and England next week.
The former England international has revealed in his Telegraph column that he believes "Ireland play a very basic game."
He writes: "I think they [Ireland] have made the fewest offloads in the Six Nations so far and are very low on missed tackles and kick the ball more than any other side in the championship. But no one has really attacked against them yet."
Healey believes that France's display in defeat to Ireland could have given England "the blueprint" for how to beat the Irish.
"When France starved Ireland of possession in the final quarter of their 18-11 defeat last Saturday and put the ball on the floor behind the Irish defensive line, they looked like they could get back into the game."
The ex-Leicester scrum-half reckons that England's centre pairing is superior to that at Joe Schmidt's disposal and singles that out for particular discussion.
"I fancy the England midfield of Luther Burrell and Jonathan Joseph against Robbie Henshaw and Jarod Payne.
Henshaw and Payne are good players, but England’s centres, on their day, possess more of a threat."
It's not all negativity from the outspoken Merseysider though as he does believe that Ireland can pose a serious threat at the breakdown when it comes to English indiscipline.
"Ireland are also the best side, from one to 15, over the ball at the breakdown so England cannot afford to play side-to-side rugby inside their own half. If they do, Jonathan Sexton will bang over penalty after penalty all afternoon."
But the result is in little doubt in the mind of Healey which makes him a rather unpopular man in the minds of Irish fans.
"Barring injuries I think the England team will be unchanged and go to Ireland and win, but I think it will be a hell of a game and definitely the game of the Six Nations.
For England, winning the Grand Slam would be a huge confidence boost and prove to them that they can go on to win all their games in a World Cup year and finish as champions.
It is a big ask, but no one pins that medal on your chest for nothing."
Pissed off by what you read? Well perhaps we can interest you in this clip of Peter Stringer schooling Austin Healey in the battle of the scrum-halves earlier this week.